(My mother in a nutshell) For those of you who read my blog, I challenge you to find a quote that describes your own mother, and then tell the world why.
Here’s my mom’s story:
She left home at 17, trying to escape a family where her own father called her a “Nig*** Lover.” After enrolling the in Redlands Community College, she dropped out after only one semester, hitchhiking north till she got to Seattle. There she lived on a houseboat, working at bakeries and fish markets until she met her first husband (I don’t remember his name).
He was a Medic in the Vietnam War, and they got married when my mom was 19. He was older however, and wanted to settle down and have kids. She didn’t. They divorced.
My mom moved back to California, where she enrolled at Sonoma State. She majored in Women’s Studies and taught Outward Bound classes. Watching people have nervous breakdowns in the middle of the woods inspired her to get into social work. She also met my dad at Sonoma State, where he was creating a student-constructed major: Opera Performance.
He was a musician, she was a feminist. They wrote political songs together, the lived in Communes, they fell in love. They got pregnant. Thus, I came into the world.
My mom did lots of jobs in her struggle to support a family, while my father pursued his music career. She drove both school and public transit buses while we lived in L.A. My dad delivered singing telegrams, and sold suits at South Coast Plaza. But my mom never finished her degree, and my dad was working on getting his teaching licence. When an elementary music teaching position opened up, it didn’t matter that it was across the country in rural Vermont.
So we left all of our relatives, and relocated from beaches and sunshine to covered bridges and snow drifts. Moving from Los Angeles, California to Shasftsbury, Vermont was basically like moving to the moon. My mom got a job working with families on Welfare, I went to a school where they made me re-learn my entire alphabet and number writing, and forced me to correct my pronunciation of the word “Apricot” and “Caramel.”
My dad’s teaching position did not last long. We were the California Hippies in Puritan New England, and the school district though my dad’s teaching style was “inappropriate.” He was fired only 6 months after we moved. I don’t think either my mother or my father recovered from this moment in our lives. I really can’t talk about it either. Let’s just say when you go the school where your dad is one of the most talked-about and despised teachers, your life isn’t very pleasant.
My mom continued to work for Social Services. My dad bounced from one job to the other, working at music stores, trying to fund raise money to make an album, but mostly I remember him being unemployed for long periods of time. My parents fought for almost all of the 7 years we lived in Vermont.
Finally my mother couldn’t take it anymore. She was displaced from her friends and family, almost continent away. She lived in bitter cold winters, putridly humid summers, and was working a job that was only making her hate the government even more. She told my Dad that she wanted to move back west, and she wanted to live in Colorado.
So we up and hauled our lives back across the country. I think my mother had such high hopes, like she was leaving all her worries behind us in Cold, Bitter New England. For the next 4 years, we moved from rental to rental, while my mom worked for the Southern Ute Tribe, teaching adult literacy, computer skills, and head start programs. My dad did everything from Factory work, carpet cleaning and lots of temping. He also played gigs whenever he could, recording a few albums, but my mother was still paying most of the bills.
After 20+ years of working for public service, she gave up. She told me one day that it had just drained everything out of her. I think the goodwill she so desperately wanted to share with people back in the 70s had been sucked dry and was replaced by a constant, churning anger.
She was angry at my dad because he had always followed his dream, while she sucked it up and supported her family. She was angry at the government for making her job of helping people almost impossible. She was angry at the families who just didn’t seem to care, or make enough effort to satisfy her. She was angry at the economy which forced us to keep moving every year, in order to find affordable housing.
People (including myself) used to be afraid of my mother. She was a fire-breathing, man-hating, liberal feminist who seemed to radiate bitterness. I think some of my friends (and definitely LB’s dad) still are.
I love my mother. I respect her more than any other woman out there. What she sacrificed for her family, honestly brings me to tears sometimes. The thought of her amazing idealism shriveling up and dying pains me tremendously. I love her, and am in awe of her. So when she says things like this to me:
“You didn’t USED to always have to learn things the hard way”
I can take it with a grain of sand.
I love you mom 🙂